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LITERATURE

 » Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]

MUSIC

 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
[12.24.2010 by The LAS Staff]

MUSIC

 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
[11.04.2010 by Cory Tendering]

Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
»Deerhunter
Halcyon Digest
4AD
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
»Robyn
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Konichiwa
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Lisbon
Fat Possum
The Robot Ate Me
Carousel Waltz
5RC Records

Rating: 8.5/10 ?


June 14, 2005
One of the most astute decisions about the Robot Ate Me's masterpiece, On Vacation, was that the second disc was so much brighter than the first. With great and precious zest, it showed that hope is eternal and life goes on, even after the horrors of genocide and nihilism the first disc presented. And, undoubtedly, life after On Vacation is seemingly bright on Carousel Waltz, bridging topics such as romance, love, and undying optimism in honor and adulation of Pet Sounds.

And, like that legendary album, it captures the subtle and not so subtle cycles of relationships, with the ability to leave you emotionally wrecked as its final sounds melt away. It moves gracefully through life, humbly representing a perspective of love that changes as it is experienced.

Beginning with the resolute, determined romance of "Bad Feelings," we begin as emotional infants, with a vision of love that cannot be shaken - yet on the very next track, "Where Love Goes," it inevitably is. The next songs capture a backslide of uncertainty, hesitance and resistance, going as far as to question God as to whether each man does indeed find a womanly counterpart, made only for him. "Regret" finds love as a learning experience, and as "All Good Things" plays through, we have moved into adolescence, confiding in trusted friends and searching for advice on the inadvisable.

Many of these early tracks are reminiscent in tone of On Vacation's "The Tourist": observational, wise and lofty, wearing their hearts on their sleeves. They are a little shaken but still standing, and remain resolutely wide-eyed and amicable, even in doubt. "All Good Things" embodies the pangs of a first real love, and as such marks the sudden infiltration of pain into the album. Elated and whimsical, it lets down its guard, and, of course, begins to question why it did just that. The following "Tonight" promptly hardens, as we often do, though it still allows the promise of perfection to light its cell, thus making the darkness of sorrow even more inescapable.

Next, on "Lately," we become familiar with a particular sort of desperation: the kind that arrives when loneliness makes you cling to someone you no longer love. Its words, "We are not like them," have an abundance of meaning - whether referring to outsiders who don't understand, the feeling of being patronized, the futility of misguided advice, the foolish faith of believing in a problem-free relationship or the dejection of knowing that what you have together is not the love that others share, the ideal remains elusive and crushing in its perfection.

A brief musical interlude then breaks up the album, illustrating a departure from a childlike Neverland, where love becomes more adult yet tentativeness has been broken by life's goodness. After this intermission, we feel on "Just One Girl" the thrill of engagement. It is telling that the only instrumental of the album occurs when we are magically transported from hopelessness to abundance - we do not see true love happening, but we know that it has - and this is again like life itself. "Just One Girl" shows the confusion that comes when you do find the one you love - that you didn't realize what love exactly was, and it is not as you'd imagined it, but perhaps nicer and more familiar than the childish ideal.

The track marks not only the transition from a child's perspective to a man's perspective, but serve's as a choral epiphany, rich in angelic harmonies, where love is real in every sense. Yet, in another shift, its companion track, "This Love is Waiting," follows in extremely short order, showing how fleeting that enlightened moment truly is. This ninth track exclaims, "Make the world you want to see," and moves perspective once again - this time from a young man in love to a dying man imparting wisdom. We do not know if it is the same man whose time has sped in a life with his truly love, or if it is an older counselor speaking from age, but his fear is immensely affecting. As the album ends, we are lent the vision of a soon-vanishing man whose image of love is chilled by mortality. We see the inextricability between wisdom and love - how much it teaches and defines who we are - and how paralyzing grief can be when another being makes you whole.

In a perfect sentiment, the closing track, "Hi Love" seeks advice from a final place, namely Heaven. It wants, very desperately to believe in the afterlife, so that love is never lost. It asks what life is all about, and is answered only with love - a beautiful symbol of Carousel Waltz and of life itself. As it seeks for unshakable faith and longs for a new ideal, it is the end of one cycle and the beginning of another, but more than that it is a profound reflection of love's most mysterious and disparaging state. We are collectively back to a childlike state, not knowing what love truly is or will be.

Carousel Waltz is an extremely personal album, sublimely disguised as a sweet bit of pop fluff. It is very intimate, and will affect its listeners in distinct and special ways. As a married person, listening to it for the first time touched a place that was almost too tender; it made me tear up thinking of the heartache and uncertainty I will have to deal with in due time. Ryland Bouchard certainly has a way of getting to the emotional truth: previously on On Vacation, he dealt with fear and hope, and now moves to love, power and death. By these universal themes, he unlocks something undeniably true and grippingly universal. His inquiries and observations are able to show keen insight into the unique experiences of every individual who lends him an attentive ear and a receptive heart.

Reviewed by Sarah Peters
A former music editor and staff writer for LAS, Sarah Peters recently disappeared. Perhaps one day she will surface again, who knows.

See other reviews by Sarah Peters

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